THE UNDERGROUND
GRAMMARIAN

Volume Six, Number Five............May 1982

The Proud Walkers

When I hear the hypercritical quarreling about grammar and style, the position of the particles etc., etc., stretching or contracting every speaker to certain rules, … I see they forget that the first requisite and rule is that expression shall be vital and natural, as much as the voice of a brute, or an interjection: first of all, mother tongue; and last of all, artificial or father tongue. Essentially, your truest poetical sentence is as free and lawless as a lamb's bleat. The grammarian is often one who can neither cry nor laugh, yet thinks he can express human emotions. So the posture-masters tell you how you shall walk, . . . but so the beautiful walkers are not made.

THOSE are Thoreau's words, and we wish that we had read them years ago, instead of just last week. It has taken us years to reach an understanding that Thoreau could have given us in less than a minute. No matter how hard you try to be thoughtful, ignorance must set you to reinventing the wheel.

We once did fuss a bit over "particles, etc., etc.," but even then we held that the splitting of infinitives, for instance, was, like the celibacy of the clergy, a matter of discipline rather than doctrine. We have not been deaf to the lamb's bleat. "It is often true," we have said, "that the language of the unschooled [so unlike the language of the schoolers] is clear, accurate, powerful, and even beautiful, for those merits do not depend on tricks of grammar." And we have often lacerated the inane or mendacious language of the schoolers who can not achieve any one of those merits even when they have achieved the "basic minimum competency" thought suitable to their kind.

So we are far less chastened than encouraged and enlightened by Thoreau's words. He has given us the key, the mot so juste that we suddenly remember that juste is a word that goes with justice. How better can we understand the affected and improbable language of the educationist than as the unwittingly ludicrous display of the smug posture-master?

But Thoreau gives even us more. The proper work of the wise is surprisingly often nothing more than providing the rest of us with exactly the right words. So it is that new ways of understanding come forth, for understanding is the making of statements, and statements about statements. In one happy phrase, Thoreau has made the fine and unexpected distinction between Mother Tongue, a concept so familiar that we usually don't stop to think about what we might take it to mean, and the unfamiliar Farther Tongue, which has always been lurking in the possibilities of language. Thinking, after all, is nothing more than rummaging about in the possibilities of language. And the thinker is one who regularly answers the question that ordinarily puts an end to thought: What more can I say?

Accordingly, we have gone rummaging through back issues looking for examples through which we might understand that "artificial or father tongue." It was easy. We quickly found these three:

The findings suggest that psychosexuality constructs of agency/communion can be meaningfully operationalized to reflect the degree of psychosexuality integration, with different modes of manifestations and different correlates of interpersonal behavior associated with various levels on the integration continuum.

The multiple issues raised suggests that a particular type of structure and composition…is required. Thus, the accomplishment of the aforementioned aims require that the meeting be from a more comprehensive perspective.

Linguistics has become a magic word in language instruction of today. Vigorous activity …has stretched linguistics beyond…esoteric enclaves…and brought it cascading down through the high school and elementary grades.

The first of those passages is the prissy pirouette of the practiced posture-master. Ah, what skills. How prettily he prances from the operationalization of constructs to the reflection of the degree of integration, and gracefully glides on into modes of manifestation and correlates associated with levels on the continuum. Ah, how smart he must be. And how professional. How proud of him his mother must be, although probably not, we'd be willing to wager, nearly as proud of him as he is of himself. The attribute that always leaks out of such writing is that supposed virtue that educationists have chosen, ignoring logic in the service of sentimentality, as both a requisite to education and its best reward--Self-esteem.

The voice of that passage, however, is not just the voice of self-esteem. It is the voice of a man full of self-esteem. It is the pompous voice of self-awarded authority, the voice of command, the mighty voice from "above," in which no decent human should speak. It is Father Tongue.

The second passage is an example of failed Father Tongue. Close, but no cigar. The writer is evidently an apprentice posture-master. He does want to strut with the proud walkers, but he keeps on stumbling because he hasn't learned to tie his shoelaces. He is Huxley's snotty little seminarian, who dresses up in the bishop's flashy regalia. His grammatical gaucheries would be inconsequential if his language were "vital and natural," but in the context of that pretentious jargon, they are laughable calamities.

The third writer's just a little boy who thinks it would be really neat to grow up to be a posture-master some day. So far, he has neither the words nor the tune, but he is quite as eater to be a proud walker as Tom Sawyer is to be a highwayman, who will hold his victims for "ransom," as it says "in the books," even though he has never felt the need to stop and reckon what that means.

Our habitual scrutiny of language has confirmed us in sexism. Men and women are different, essentially and (we hope) ineradicably. Men don't grow up. Pure seriousness seizes only a few of them, and only from time to time. They pretend to be something. They pretend to be sages or soldiers, or anything in between. Even the most witless and inept can find some system, made by men and for men, that will pay him for pretending to be a superintendent of schools, or a language arts facilitator, or something. And the score is kept in those sad games not by what one gets done, but by how one plays, which means, among other things, doing one's "work" exclusively in Father Tongue.

The crusty Dr. Johnson, in one of his most outrageous wisecracks, opined that listening to a woman preaching a sermon would be like watching a dog walking on its hind legs. We would be astonished not that she might do it well, but that she does it at all. Tsk, we used to think. That is not a nice thing to say. We were wrong. In fact, nice is exactly what it is--look it up, if you must--for it makes a fine and subtle distinction.

Johnson knew the difference between Father Tongue and Mother Tongue. He knew what he meant by "preaching," an exercise in the artificial language used by men for saying exactly what they are supposed to say. Misogynist though he was, Johnson knew that no woman, uncompelled, would ever do such a thing.

Yes, we do know that there are dippy women who want to speak Father Tongue, who understand no more than most men how pitiable a display they make of their captivity, for it is captivity, not liberation. A man who speaks Mother Tongue can make his own place. A woman who speaks Father Tongue might fill a vacancy in the ranks of the proud walkers. And she'd better have good, strong hind legs.

Sheer Doctoral Competence

High Order Acquisition Testimony to
High-standard Endeavor where
Seminars Plumb Assists

Awesomeness Partially Comprehended in Texas

YES, it's true. Only in Texas could it happen, and only Nolan Estes could have brought it off. It was Estes, as superintendent of schools in Dallas, who put an end to busing. With a single flap of his nimble tongue, he sent the children to school in motorized attendance modules. So we just knew that if there was any educationist who might partially comprehend the awesomeness of superintending, it would have to be good ol' Nolan.

He says so himself, in a real fine article we found in Texas School Business. (You won't find a sprightlier journal of thrusts from out on the cutting edge of the fast lane than good ol' TSB.) Estes' article, co-authored by one L. D. Haskew, who doesn't seem to have made any difference, is called "The Cooperative Superintendcy Program," but maybe that's a typo. It's really about some great superintendency program that Estes is running at the University of Texas, where he has become a "Professor" and also an "Education Administrator," or maybe just a plain "Professor Education Administrator." From the way it's printed, it's hard to tell. Anyway, it's a swell job for an experienced flapper of tongue. Consider this:

Doctoral courses in Educational Administration focus on high-level superintending attainments (e. g. planmaking as well as upon intellectual development (e. g. organization strategy for Instruction) and sheer doctoral competence (e. g. research design, rational thinking). Seminars, called "Leadership Clinics," plumb the technological assists to constructive leaderly superintending. Dissertation design and publication are high-standard endeavors which also focus on a chosen facet of superintending's broad concerns. Flexibility in the hourly schedules for TEA work-assignment performance enhances competence-development by course engagements. The Fellows emerge with a University of Texas Ph.D. degree as testimony to high order professional and scholarly acquisitions.

How's that for sheer doctoral competence in high-standard endeavor?

It is entertaining, of course, to think of plumbing the assists and enhancing that "competence-development" by "course engagements." And we could provide you a titter by prowling through the piece and telling you that the elements abound with training, that performances will be factored into competencies, that far upness must escalate, and that there should be plenty of relational constructiveness with workmates. It might be fun to hear that when Estes and Haskew say "Artifacts from administrative/developmental performance," they don't mean, as one who knows both the meaning of "artifact" and the nature of educationistic labors might suppose, dried up ball-points, æroplanes folded from memos, and paperclips malformed into projectiles. E. and H. mean, however, "newspaper clippings, citations or awards, pointed [?] letters of commendation, employee evaluation sheets." Or we might consider superintending itself, myriad in its demands, they say, and test whether we too--so naive that we can't even understand why people who want a Leadership Clinic don't just go and have one, instead of setting up a seminar and then calling it a Leadership Clinic--test whether we can hope to comprehend partially the awesomeness of superintending.

But this, unlike the esoteric TSB, is a humble little journal of simple ideas. It's as much as we can do to handle the easy stuff. Hyphens, for instance. Hyphens, in fact, can tell us all we need to know about sheer doctoral competence (e.g. rational thinking) in Texas.

These sheer "doctors" of educationism have as much trouble with little things as with big (e.g. rational thinking). They are holistic, and can not waste attention on mere details, unless, of course, they have to do with expense allowances and fringe benefits. You must have noticed, in the cited passage, that the "high-level attainments" and "high-standard endeavors" suggest the tastes and habits of some environment other than Academe. "Now this here's your easy-clean high-standard chopper-dicer." But, more to the point, we are led to wonder about the "acquisitions" at the end of the paragraph. How come they're only "high order" instead of "high-order"? Is there, in fact, some significant (and intended) distinction between "high level" and "high-level," a distinction that the authors judiciously chose not to make in the case of "high order"? Is that absent hyphen simply a typo, which the authors, had they noticed it, would have taken pains to "correct" in the interests of clarity and precision, or out of mere sheer doctoral competence?

And what distinction do the hyphens clarify in "competence-development" and "work-assignment performance"? Is it the same in both cases? The former can only mean the development of competence, and that is what it would mean without the hyphen. But if the latter means the assignment of work, then the "fellows" must be those who perform the assignment of the work rather than the work itself. So what the hell is it with these hyphens?

If you pay close attention to the sheer doctoral scribbles of educationists, and if you assume that unusual practice must serve some principle, you will understand why nothing can be done about schools. The people who manage them won't even pay attention to their own utterances, and they serve no coherent principles. See what principle you can derive from these forms, all from Estes and Haskew:

a post in top-management
elements-of-activity arc set up
majority-choice is the exception
clinical-setting acquisition
positionally-prominent individuals
research and/or literature-synthesis

There. Now, if your work-assignment performance has been high-level, you will be smarting from office-insolence and in danger of mind-o'erthrowment.

The Lady with the Lump

I can stand out the war with any man.

Nightingale Clobbered! Sings no More

Intentionality of Consciousness
Reported in Family Ecosystem

Just when we thought we had it all figured out, just as we had definitely concluded that women would never indulge themselves in the ludicrous linguistic posturing so natural to men, we got some bad news from Akron. It came in these very words, and we are afraid that they may have been written by a woman:

Assumptions from theories of ecology and phenomenology provide an ecological-phenomenological perspective. The ecological-phenomenological perspective provides the framework for graduate education to prepare family health nurses to assist families in sustaining that quality of life which enables them to survive and prevail. From an ecological-phenomenological* perspective the faculty views families within a macro-ecosystem, a meta-ecosystem, and a micro-ecosystem; and perceives the phenomena of the family ecosystem in terms of the intentionality of consciousness of enfamilied selves as reported by family members.

And there's more, lots more. And it's all the same, of course, except when it's worse. That "intentionality," for example, is later defined--well, not defined, but at least viewed--"viewed as those motives and goals that lead to expansions of consciousness." And consciousness "is viewed as five domains of living: valuing, thinking, feeling, acting, and intuiting."

Now you might suspect that when intentionality does lead to expansion of consciousness, it might, at least, open up a couple of new domains, loafing about and wool-gathering, perhaps, but no. It turns out that "expansion of consciousness is viewed as a dialectical process which encompasses thesis of being, antithesis of doing and synthesis of becoming."

Heavy.

If all this puts you in mind of one of those real intellectual institution places where they figure the ontological is-ness of It All, it's only because you've forgotten--and who can blame you?--the key word in the cited passage: "nurse."

Yes, this is all about how they "teach" nurses something or other at the College of Nursing at the University of Akron.

Florence Nightingale said that she could stand the war, and she did. She also said:

No man, not even a doctor, ever gives any other definition of what a nurse should be than this--"devoted and obedient." This definition would do just as well for a porter. It might even do for a horse.

Somehow, we don't think it cheers her to know that the women who are defining the nurse are so docile and obedient that they even want to talk like men, which no self-respecting horse would dream of.

Summer Reading

The Leipzig Connection

by Paolo Lionni and Lance J. Klass
Heron Books, Inc.
P.O. Box 563, Portland, OR 97207

WE HAVE given the publisher's address because you are going to have trouble finding this book. You can order it for a measly $3.75 plus postage, and we wish you would. It's important.

The Leipzig Connection is an account of the birth and the earliest outrages and fiascos of what is now the profitable practice of "educational psychology," of which "service" only certain agencies of government seem to feel any need. And how that came to be so, you will also discover.

Its title makes the book sound like a thriller, and in a way it is. There isn't a drop of blood shed, but of that kind of violence that nuts commit daily against millions of minds, there's plenty.

[Ed. Note: We know from the mail that many of you have read our assistant circulation manager's recent The Graves of Academe. You may remember the profit he took from a single passage in Leipzig.]

HAVING just read "Sheer Doctoral Competence," you may be curious (as you had better be) about the great American superintending scam. Where do those guys come from? How come so many of them keep turning up again and again, all over the country, like itinerant mountebanks? Is some sinister syndicate sending us all these silly superintendents?

Yes.

And you can read the sordid details in Jerome Cramer's "One Step Ahead of the Sheriff," which appeared in Washington Monthly, March 1982. It's worth a trip, even quite a long trip, to the library.

Of the Making of many Books,

there is no End.

Much Study is a Weariness

of the Flesh;

and he that increaseth Knowledge

increaseth Vexation.

Notes from Central Control

DO NOT be fooled by the Assistant Circulation Manager's grandiose title. He is a mere figurehead. The real power is in the hands of Central Control. She sends you, along with best wishes for a peaceful and temperate summer, the admonitions and requests that follow:

The mail people neither know nor care what they are doing. Issues sent to long-time readers come back marked "No such street" or "Unknown." P.O. employees see no cause for complaint in that. So what can I tell ya? These things happen. And they have delivered eighty-three million deodorant samples to occupants without a hitch. So, if an issue seems inordinately late, don't hesitate to write. Should your letter come back stamped "No such state in the Union," just wait. We'll eventually find you by telephone. And if you do move, please tell us promptly.

We still refuse to fill out forms or send invoices. We throw purchase orders and form letters into the wastebasket.

It sometimes happens that a faithful reader retires, or is laid off, or, for some other reason finds it necessary to save every dollar. When we know that--which is probably all too rarely--we simply add one more name to our Grace and Favour List. Retired English teachers, whatever their circumstances, can subscribe for one half of the usual price. We believe, but do not insist, that school administrators and supernumeraries should make up the difference. Or just retire.

We are glad to send gift subscriptions, along with appropriate greetings. Unless you instruct otherwise, a renewal notice will eventually go to the recipient rather than to you.

Almost every example we use in The Underground Grammarian is sent to us by our readers, sometimes anonymously, and sometimes by people who ask us not to reveal their names. Some ask that we conceal or alter the identity of the perpetrator. The latter we won't do, for we believe everyone accountable for his words, which are also his thoughts and deeds. But we never reveal our sources. In fact, once we've decided to use a piece, we destroy all covering letters and envelopes. And then we can't remember.

And so, Goodbye until September.

Neither can his mind be thought to be in tune, whose words do jarre; nor his reason in frame, whose sentence is preposterous.

The Underground
Grammarian

Published monthly, September to May
R. Mitchell, Assistant Circulation Manager
Post Office Box 203
Glassboro, New Jersey 08028

* This is the kind of spacing you have to expect if you use 'words' of 27 characters. back

 


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